"I thought both teams were here to get better," said John Harbaugh after a joint practice with the LA Rams. "Both teams had an agenda, which was to improve." (Kevin Richardson / Baltimore Sun video)
Unlike some of his fellow Ravens rookies, offensive tackle Orlando Brown Jr. doesn’t seem as overwhelmed by the surroundings of his first NFL training camp.
The son of former Ravens offensive tackle Orlando “Zeus” Brown spent a chunk of his childhood going to the team’s training camps in Westminster. His most vivid memory came during his father’s return to action after missing three years because of a serious eye injury caused by an official’s wayward penalty flag.
“I can remember training camp when he first got back in 2003. I think they were practicing at McDaniel College, and my mom had dropped us off — me and my brothers — and we just went out on the field and we were spotting balls,” Brown recalled after practice Sunday. “Might [have] even broke the team down after practice.”
Now the younger Brown, whose father died at age 40 in 2011, is having his own performance analyzed.
After months of hearing about his disastrous showing at the NFL scouting combine in Indianapolis, Brown is aware of the praise heaped on him during and after Thursday’s Pro Football Hall of Fame game against the Chicago Bears in Canton, Ohio.
It was deserved, considering that Brown graded out as the team’s third-highest offensive player, according to Pro Football Focus. Maybe the only person who didn’t seem pleased with what the 6-foot-8, 345-pound right tackle did in the Ravens’ 17-16 preseason win was Brown himself.
“I wasn’t too happy with my performance. Obviously, there’s a lot of things to correct,” Brown said. “I think I gave up two [quarterback] pressures, something like that. I know what the commentators were saying and what the media is saying, [but] in my opinion, it wasn't great.
“I look for zero pressures, no missed assignments. I don’t think I had any missed assignments that were on me. I want to dominate. I want to be All-Pro. No matter if I’m a rookie, 10 years from now, four years from now. I want to be as perfect as possible. That’s what I’m aiming for.”
Still, his debut in a Ravens uniform helped distance himself, at least for now, from his disastrous combine. There, a player who last season was a first-team All-American at Oklahoma and twice was named the Big 12 Conference’s Offensive Lineman of the Year was far from perfect.
Though he tested better at his pro day in Norman, improving his combine-worst 40-yard dash time of 5.85 seconds to 5.63 and going from 14 to 18 repetitions in the 225-pound bench press, Brown plummeted first-round consideration. The Ravens ultimately took him in the third round, at No. 83 overall.
Brown, whose father struggled at his pro day 25 years earlier at South Carolina State and went undrafted, said Sunday that he had told several NFL coaches and general managers in Indianapolis that he would not test well before stepping onto the field at Lucas Oil Stadium.
“That's just never been me,” Brown said. “I play football, man. … I work hard on my craft. Up until that point in my life, I had never taken the weight room as serious as I do now. I just knew what was going to happen. My performance at the combine and what people said, in a weird way, has shaped me into a different mindset to be more consistent in life. …
“I knew how I was going to perform, and for me, it was more so accepting reality and kind of growing from there. … The reason I was able to be a unanimous All-American was because I took my craft very serious. Although I might not have been getting those extra lifts in, I was getting those extra sets working on my pass pro[tection] and my run-game [blocking].”
Brown knew he had to change his routine once he got to Baltimore.
“It kind of just changed my mind for me to understand, coming to this level, what’s expected,” he said. “I knew my measurables weren’t going to be measurably common with anybody [expected to be a first-round pick] in the last 30 years. Man, for me, it was a wake-up call to understand [that] to be on this level, you’ve got to be an all-around player."
Brown’s performance against the Bears certainly pleased Ravens coach John Harbaugh, and his overall effort has impressed perennial Pro Bowl guard Marshal Yanda.
“Orlando was a bright spot for the young offensive linemen,” Harbaugh said Saturday. “He played well. Hey, he played almost a whole game. There are probably 10 plays in there — I’m throwing a number out offhand — that he would say, ‘I could do a lot better on.’ But there are probably 40, 45 plays where you’d say, ‘Oh, he looked really good.’ He’s just what we thought he was, and as he continues to work on technique, he’s only going to get better."
Said Yanda: “He’s growing every day, which most rookies are. They’re growing and they’re getting more experience. He’s going against good pass rushers, and I like his demeanor. I like him as a player so far. He’s got a long way to go, like all rookies do. But I just like his approach every day. He’s a hardworking guy, and he just needs to keep grinding.”
This week should help Brown’s development. With two days of practice against the Los Angeles Rams at the Under Armour Performance Center as a prelude to Thursday’s preseason game against the Rams at M&T Bank Stadium, Brown and the team’s other young offensive linemen will get a chance to play against a defensive line recently ranked No. 3 in the league by NFL.com, albeit one missing reigning Defensive Player of the Year Aaron Donald.
”It’s going to be great,” Harbaugh said Sunday, the day before the first joint practice. “It’s a great test for us. You want to compete on your one-one-one matchups. You want to handle yourself well, so it’s a chance to improve against a great, very talented football team.”
Brown is still unclear where he will wind up on the depth chart, though it appears he could start ahead of five-year veteran James Hurst at right tackle.
“I really don’t know,” Brown said Sunday. “I’m just working every day to get better. I want to be as dominant as possible, no matter if it’s individual, team or one-on-ones. Man, I’m just focused on getting great right now.”
Given that he grew up in Cockeysville before moving to Atlanta as a sophomore in high school, Brown calls it “a little surreal” that he is wearing one of the jersey numbers (No. 78) that once belonged to his father and playing for the same team his father did for six of his 11 NFL seasons.
“I grew up in the building. This is home. My sisters live here,” Brown said. “This is really where I wanted to come [out of college]. They gave me this opportunity, and I look forward to taking advantage of it and continue to grow as a man and as player.”